How to Get on the Cover of National Wildlife Magazine

June/July 2008 Cover of National WildlifeWith each issue of National Wildlife® magazine reaching more than 1 million homes, it’s a pretty high honor for the photographers who are featured on the cover. Guess what? You can be one of those lucky shutterbugs by entering the 38th Annual National Wildlife Magazine Photo Contest!

I was lucky enough to talk to Jill Stanley, one of NWF’s photo editors and contest judges to find out all the dirt on the contest and on getting your photos published on the cover of National Wildlife. Here are a few tips for entering and making this goal a reality, even if photography is only a hobby for you.

Winning PhotoWho was last year’s contest winner?
Piotr Kwatera

Was he an amateur or professional?
He was an amateur from Krakow, Poland!

What percentage would you say of people who enter are amateur vs. professional?
Because we only recently opened the contest up to the Pros within the last few years, the professional numbers have been on the low side. I would say that about 80% of our entrants are amateur–which has been great for them. That said, however, we’ve really beefed things up with the photo contest this year and have made the competition more attractive to professional photographers, so we have higher expectations this year in terms of an increase in exceptional photography!

In the past five years, who won more often? Amateurs or pros?
Definitely amateurs. They surprise us every year with stunning entries. Amateurs tend to also submit more entries per submission so their chances of being recognized is higher. Professional photographers really tend to edit down their submissions and sometimes limit themselves by only entering a few.

Do the winning pics always include wildlife?
Not all winning entries include wildlife.  We have other categories like “Connecting People and Nature,” “Landscapes and Plant Life” as well as a “Backyard Habitats” category. We’ve tried to be as wide open as we can in terms of wildlife and nature photography.

CaterpillarHow do you recommend people to choose the photos they enter?
It’s a good question. I think anytime you submit your photographs to a magazine, photo contest or a photo editor, strongly consider your audience and tailor your submission to suit their tastes. In this case, we represent Wildlife and nature. I can’t tell you how often we continue to get photos of Aunt Vera’s cat “Fluffy” or someone’s dog sitting on the back porch just as cute as can be. They are great, but they’re not for our photo contest.

Any insider tips?
Study our publication. Pick up a few copies of National Wildlife magazine or scroll through some of the previous winners from to familiarize yourself with our style and subject and you’ll get a good sense of our expectations. Additionally, don’t over do it. Some entrants have come so close to winning until the other judges and I open up the file to take a closer look only to realize that a tree branch has suddenly, magically appeared out of nowhere–or–they’ve over-saturated or changed colors so much that it clearly is not representing true nature. We also get excited to see wildlife behavior captured in a photo!

Ready for the challenge? Submit up to 20 of your best photos today!

Check out last year’s winners…

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